Every Tuesday, the members of TVbyGirls — a Southwest Minneapolis youth filmmaking organization — gather inside the cozy living room of co-founder and director Barbara Weiner.
“We teach skills of camera use and editing, but it’s mostly about girls connecting (with each other) and connecting with the world around them,” says Weiner.
This week, the girls discussed their special project that will focus on dating and domestic violence. With the backing of a $2000 grant from the Summer 612 campaign, TVbyGirls will produce a PSA and movie to inform about the first signs —of any form — of violence in relationships.
The City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Foundation joined forces to create Summer 612, a youth non-violence plan in which eight organizations — including TVbyGirls — were awarded microgrants ranging from $250-$5000. Through visual art, multimedia, theater and sports, the eight groups will each take on a special project highlighting youth violence to be showcased September 22 at the Minneapolis Central Library.
Unlearning The Culture Of Violence
While the city has a four-point strategy to eliminate violence in the city of Minneapolis, according to Claudia Fuentes, policy aid at the City of Minneapolis, Summer612 is all about what she called “unlearning” violence by reducing the impact of violent messages in the culture and entertainment consumed by the city’s kids.
The TVbyGirls project ultimately strives to help youth, men and women mold healthy relationships.
“The bottom line is if we’re in a respectful relationship and demand that in our lives, our ability to be peacemakers in the world is enhanced. If we aren’t then our own violence and our own discomfort is enhanced,” TVbyGirls’ Weiner said.
“Violence and disrespect ripples out and affects more than just the two people,” she said. “It affects the friends, the family and ultimately moves out into the streets and affects the community”
Implementing The Campaign
Aside from individual projects, each grantee is expected to hit the four concepts of Summer 612’s campaign: place a trusted adult in the life of every child; intervene at the first sign of risk; rehabilitate youth and unlearn the culture of violence.
“They have really different experiences and ways of life,” Kathryn Hare, 15, said of the mentors she and her peers work with twice a week for at least three hours.
Weiner’s home operates as an office and creative space, which includes an editing suite upstairs.
“Not only is someone helping you with skills, but it’s someone you can trust. It’s a “girls environment” that feels comfortable and safe,” said Molly Burns-Hansen, 15, a member of TVbyGirls.
Weiner believes that it’s easier to intervene at the first signs of risk around the ages of 12 or 13, when the media starts influencing girls.
A Violent Past
“We come up with a lot of awesome ideas, but this is something we wouldn’t necessarily do,” said Frances Matejcek, 14, speaking about their dating violence project. The group considers it to be a fun challenge.
“All of the projects that are involved with this grant are really interesting,” said Natasha MacDonald, 15, a new member to TVbyGirls. “I’m really happy we’re doing ours because violence is a problem that people don’t recognize much.”
One of the TVbyGirls members — who wasn’t present at this week’s meeting — is contributing a bit more to the project.
“She was six when she saw her father attempt to kill her mother,” said Weiner. Nonetheless, “She was willing to share that experience with us and how it affected her.”
In addition to speaking out, she will contribute a spoken word piece.
Positive Messages For The Community
Katie Langenfeld, production associate and TVbyGirls mentor said, “I’d never really talked about relationships and what might hint at things that are abusive. I think its great that we get to work with our girls on this project.”
Far beyond most kids their age, the young girls in this organization are nearly filmmaking pros. They are well versed at creating concepts, operating equipment and editing video. However, their mentors believe it’s the product of their skills that is most impressive.
Another mentor, Amanda Hang says, “The messages they give to other girls is powerful. I think what this organization is doing is amazing.”
Through Summer 612 Burns-Hansen has learned a valuable lesson.
“Everyone’s gone through struggles, there’s still hope and many ways to fix them. Things do get better.”